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A Bloodstorm Blade (Tome of Battle, p. 100) has among other abilities:

Returning Attacks (Ex): You can hurl your weapon at a foe and command it to ricochet back to you. Any weapon you throw behaves as though it has the returning special ability (DMG 225). When you use returning attacks, you lose the use of one Iron Heart strike you have readied for the current encounter, just as if you had initiated the strike (except you do not also gain the strike's normal effect). Once you use this ability, you can recover the maneuver you expended and use it normally.

Lightning Ricochet (Ex): From 4th level on, you can throw your weapon at a nearby foe and command it to immediately bounce back to your grasp. Any time you make a ranged attack with a thrown weapon on your turn, the weapon immediately returns to you, and you can catch it as a free action. This ability allows you to make a full attack entirely with thrown weapon attacks, or with a mix of thrown and melee attacks.

The wording of the 4th level ability, Lightning Ricochet, makes it seem like using this ability you can throw any weapon at a nearby foe and have it bounce back immediately.

There is no mention of having to expand an Iron Heart strike, unlike the 1st level ability Returning Attacks.

I see at least two interpretations:

  • It is implied that using Lightning Ricochet on a weapon without the Returning property requires also using Returning Attacks and therefore expand an Iron Heart strike;
  • OR Lightning Ricochet supersedes Returning Attacks, and from now on it is unnecessary to expand an Iron Heart strike just to get one's weapon back.

Is there a clear consensus?

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Lightning ricochet supersedes and replaces returning attacks. It’s kind of difficult to “prove” this, but lightning ricochet says you can do a thing; if returning attacks didn’t exist, there would be no confusion as to what it did. Abilities don’t tend to implicitly rely on other abilities; they usually reference them explicitly when there is a relation. In this case, lightning ricochet does not do that, and so there is no relation. You still have and/or could use returning attacks, but there is no reason to do so as lightning ricochet allows you to do the same thing but at lower cost.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ To be honest, it just seems too good to be true :) Then again, it does require taking 2 levels of Bloodstorm Blade after Thunderous Throw so there's a cost to grabbing the ability. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Nov 20 '17 at 18:32

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